Fragrance Free

As part of our commitment to universal access, all Think Again events are fragrance-free. Event organizers need to communicate with participants in advance to make sure they will come to the event without fragrance. Below is sample language that you can copy for this purpose. Different events may require different work around the fragrance-free policy and other access needs – we will gladly work with you to problem-solve and figure out what will work best for your event.

In addition to communicating with participants, event hosts should

  • make sure fragrance-free hand soap is available for participants to use in the restrooms during and before the event
  • remove obvious sources of fragrance such as “air fresheners,” pot pourri, incense, and scented candles
  • request that scented cleaning products not be used in the event space for several days before the event (especially for longer sessions, and especially products used on soft surfaces like carpets)

For open-to-the-public events where RSVPs are not required, please include the following statement in all outreach materials:

FRAGRANCE-FREE EVENT. For the health and safety of facilitators and participants, it is important that everyone come fragrance-free to this workshop. For information on how and why to be fragrance-free, see If you arrive wearing a fragrance, you will be asked to wash it off, and if that’s not possible, to leave the workshop. If you have questions, or if you are not sure you can be fragrance-free, please contact ________ [insert contact person’s information here!]

For closed workshops, trainings or meetings whose participants you can contact in advance, please send the following information (the whole rest of this page) at least one week before the event. Or, you may send a shorter message such as the one above, with a link to this page and the instruction to read it at least several days before the event.

Fragrance-Free Event

For the health and safety of facilitators and participants, it is important that everyone come fragrance-free to this workshop. Please read the info below now. (Don’t wait until the last minute! You may need to plan ahead to be fragrance-free). Then, if you have questions, or if you are not sure you can be fragrance-free, please contact the event organizer who referred you to this page.

Why Be Fragrance-Free

Many people in our community become ill when exposed to fragrances such as those contained in personal care and laundry products. Many of these products contain unlisted toxins, and while almost everyone may have some reaction to strong fragrances, some of us have much more immediate reactions even to “lighter” fragrances – including migraines, blurred vision, muscle and joint pain, difficulty breathing, and even seizures. If participants wear fragrances to this training, the facilitator may become ill. If you arrive wearing a fragrance that makes someone ill, you will be asked to wash it off, and if that’s not possible, you may be asked to leave the training.

How to Be Fragrance-Free

Being fragrance-free means arriving to the workshop with no fragrance on your body, hair or clothes. Some products that contain fragrance may not smell strongly to you. Check the label for ingredients such as “fragrance,” “natural fragrance,” or “parfum.” Keep in mind:

  • Products that may contain fragrances include perfume, cologne, shampoo and other hair items, soap, lotion, aftershave, sunscreen, insect repellent, deodorant, makeup, laundry detergent and drier sheets. Almost all of these products are available in fragrance-free varieties, including deodorant (but not perfume or cologne, obviously).
  • Laundry products are especially problematic because the fragrance chemicals are designed to stick to fabric for weeks or more. Even some “fragrance free” drier sheets contain harmful chemicals that affect people in the same ways as fragrances! Wool felt drier balls are a safer substitute.
  • Some natural fragrances are less harmful than manufactured fragrances, but can still cause illness for some people and should be used sparingly or not at all.

For a short, one-time event, you can be relatively fragrance free without purchasing new products:

  1. Leave off optional products (such as perfume, cologne, aftershave, lotion, hair styling product), especially products that stay on you all day (as opposed to those you use and then rinse off).
  2. Deodorant –  Did you know that the scent is not what makes deodorant work? It’s true! It works because it’s mildly antibacterial. There are many fragrance-free deodorants available on the market. Another easy alternative is coconut oil – the same kind you cook with. Just rub about 1/2 a teaspoon into each armpit. It works all day and does not stain.
  3. Choose your outfit in advance. Wash it in plain water, or with white vinegar in place of detergent, and then dry it without drier sheets. Ideally, hang it up to dry and air out for a day or two.
  4. Shampoo and conditioner do come in fragrance-free varieties, but depending on your hair type it can be hard to find one on short notice that will work for you. In that case, consider showering the night before instead of the morning of a session, so that fragrance will have worn off a little. And if you want to find a better option for being fragrance-free in the future, Jessicurl has fantastic fragrance-free products for curly/coarse hair.
  5. If you smoke, avoid doing so during the training or immediately before it starts, and/or wear an outer layer when you go out to smoke that you can take off and leave outside the training room.

Another useful explanation of why and how to be fragrance-free can be found here.Further info and lists of safe products can be found here. Some brilliant and useful thoughts about race, class, gender, disability and fragrance-free policies can be found here. A University of Washington study documenting the toxins found in common products can be found here.


What about natural fragrances? Fragrances that are truly natural are usually less harmful than manufactured fragrances, but can still make some people ill and should be used sparingly. More importantly, when you see “natural” on a label or ingredient list, it doesn’t mean anything in particular. There’s often no way to tell how actually natural a product is.

What about essential oils (EOs)? EOs are manufactured from some “natural” ingredients (mostly plants) and some other ingredients and processes that are not natural. They are highly concentrated and can make anyone sick if they’re not diluted properly. Many people with chemical sensitivities are made ill by EOs, even in concentrations that would be okay for other people. As a general guideline, an EO product that is safe to eat (such as diluted peppermint oil) is less likely to cause a severe reaction than an EO product that would only ever be used in other ways (such as sandalwood or patchouli).

Is coconut oil a fragrance? No. Coconut oil is food. It has one ingredient. It smells like what it is, and is totally different from something that is “coconut scented” and has many ingredients that could include fragrance.

What about food smells? Food smells are not fragrances. You are welcome to bring and eat any food you want to our training sessions (unless there’s a specific allergy concern, in which case we’ll let you know).

Think Again